New Search Functions!
There are new search features available to help you find the musicals you're looking for in the database!
You can now search for musicals by:
For example, you can use the Themes filter to search for "literature" and find filmed live musicals based on books like Daddy Long Legs, The Wind in the Willows, or Candide. Or use the Representation filter to search for "women creatives" and locate musicals written or directed by women such as Shrek, Come From Away, or The SpongeBob Musical. If you're in the mood for some Sondheim, use the Composer search to find all the filmed live Sondheim musicals! Or use the Where to Watch filter to find musicals to watch online like all the musical above!
The site is not yet a complete list of every filmed live musical ever made, but if you want to help us get closer to that goal, consider becoming a Patron! Just $3 a month gives you early access to site content and the podcast, and you'll be helping to preserve the history of filmed stage musicals, and contribute to the curation of a one easy place to find them all.
Take a look through the database now to find your new favorite musical!
How very! There are two new entries in the database - Heathers: The Musical filmed live at The Other Palace in May this year, and Velvet Determination filmed live at the Hudson Guild Theatre in early 2020.
Heathers is a dark musical comedy set at Westerberg High School where cliques rule. Veronica Sawyer is a reluctant member of the popular girl clique, the Heathers. With the help of newcomer J.D., Veronica sets to turn popularity on its head, and murder and mayhem ensue.
The London debut of the show has proved so popular it has had two West End runs (one pre, and one post the theatre shutdown), and is now in its extended second run in the off West End theatre The Other Palace.
Learn more about Heathers: www.filmedlivemusicals.com/heathers.
Velvet Determination is an autobiographical one woman show by actor, singer, and classical pianist Cynthia Shaw. In the show, Cynthia shares her journey from a tiny Colorado town to a prestigious music school in NYC, and all the characters who help, or hinder, along the way.
You can also catch Cynthia talking about the history of the show on the Filmed Live Musicals podcast ! Learn more at www.filmedlivemusicals.com/velvet-determination.
Want to know about upcoming filmed live musicals from Broadway and beyond? Sign up for our free weekly newsletter!
There are two new entries to take a look at in the database - Better Late (1946) and Of a Lifetime (2021). The titles were filmed 75 years apart and represent very different possibilities of bringing live musicals to the screen. And just for fun, despite being filmed in the UK and US respectively, both musicals have Aussie connections much like yours truly who is Australian born!
Better Late was a musical revue starring Beatrice Lillie, and it was the first musical to be broadcast live by the BBC from the West End following WWII. The cast also included Aussie actor Murray Matheson who became a dear friend of Lillie's. A fun connection for me, when I was accepted to study at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama I was awarded the Beatrice Lillie Scholarship! I wonder what Ms. Lillie and Mr. Murray would think of this Aussie, who trained in London and now lives in the US, would think of their revue being studied in this way over three-quarters of century later?!
Of a Lifetime is a new electro-rock sci-fi musical by Aussie writer and composer James C.K. Jefferies. The musical was filmed during its off-Broadway run in 2021, and the film was an official selection of the 2022 International New York Film Festival where it received a Merit Award. It's available to stream online.
Visit the database to learn more!
In my work cataloging filmed live musicals that have been filmed and made available to the public, I've heard from many theatre fans who are confused about a show's content, as well as logistical questions like where to buy tickets, if a stream is available worldwide, or if the show is live-streamed or has been pre-recorded.
As a researcher, I've grown to share these frustrations. For over a year now, I've been sending out a weekly newsletter with listings of upcoming musical theatre streams. From professional theatres to local community groups all around the world, the productions represent a wide range of the possibilities for streaming musical theatre. I love being able to help spread the word about these productions, and I want to help more theatres, companies, and productions sell tickets! When theatres don't make basic info about their streams available, it makes it harder for audiences to access them.
For theatres that have been doing an excellent job with providing comprehensive info about streamed shows, check out Bristol Old Vic and New Victory Theater.
I've created a check-list for theatres to use when promoting their streamed shows. If your theatre/company/production is streaming a show, here's a list of essential information to include when you're promoting it.
☐ Date, Time, & Time Zone
☐ Country/Regions it's available
☐ Live v. Pre-Recorded
☐ Watch it once or on-demand?
☐ All the above listed on your website
Want to know what new musicals are streaming? In my weekly newsletter, I send out info on upcoming streams with all this information already included so you don't have to go looking for it! Sign up here! Want to include your show in the newsletter? Get in touch here!
If you want access to info on new on-demand streams, become a Filmed Live Musicals patron! Patrons receive early access to site content, bonus content in the newsletter, and exclusive access to the streaming calendar. Sign up at Patreon.com to become a Filmed Live Musicals patron today!
Join host Luisa Lyons for a 3-part chat with musical theatre historian Margaret Hall where we'll be discussing the work of Stephen Sondheim!
In part 1, take a fun tour through the catalog of filmed live Sondheim musicals. You can also learn about Margaret’s journey from Bones to Wicked, how she started teaching and writing about musical theatre history, and how advice from Michael Cerveris compelled her to take on the project of writing Paul Gemignani’s memoir.
Part 2 (out March 14) will be a deep dive into Pacific Overtures, and Part 3 (out March 28) will look at the 2011 New York Philharmonic concert production of Company, the musical that inspired this very website!
Margaret Hall is one of the foremost emerging theatre historians of her generation. She received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Drama (Musical Theatre) from New York University, Tisch School of the Arts, and is currently obtaining her Masters in Musical Theatre History from New York University, Gallatin School of Individualized Study, the first degree of its kind to be granted worldwide. Margaret is currently the Night and Weekend Editor for Playbill.com, in addition to her work as a teacher of musical theatre history. Her first book, Gemignani: Life and Lessons from Broadway and Beyond will be released Spring 2022. @itsmargarethall
Want to hear more? As a special bonus, patrons also receive extra content from this episode where Margaret shares details about Sondheim's early life until the 1970s! To get access, become a patron today!
Enjoyed this podcast? Leave a review and help spread the word!
When I first started researching At the Drop of a Hat (1962), and its sequel At the Drop of Another Hat (1967), I wasn't expecting to need to dedicate a whole lot of time to it. It's just two white dudes singing comedy songs right?!
As I delved deeper into the comedic duo of Flanders and Swann, I became intrigued by their stories. Both were fascinating men who were immensely brilliant writers and, by all accounts, absolutely charming individuals.
As a young man, Michael Flanders had contracted polio and as a result became a wheelchair user. From what I can gather, Michael Flanders was the first actor in a wheelchair to perform on Broadway and in the West End. Writers of the day barely gave this fact a mention, and one author infuriatingly noted that maybe Flanders "could surely step out" of his chair. Flanders faced many difficulties as a performer in a wheelchair, and he was devastated that despite the fact he could perform, other wheelchair users were not permitted in the theatre. He became a passionate advocate for the rights of people with disabilities, a cause his wife Claudia Cockburn also became involved in and was awarded an Order of the British Empire for her work.
Donald Swann was born in Wales, the child of a British national father born in Russia and a Muslim mother from southern Russia in what is now Turkmenistan. Swann was a conscientious objector in the war and as a result of his service with the Friends' Ambulance in became fascinated with the music and culture of Greece.
Through their revue At the Drop of a Hat, the duo performed not only in the West End and on Broadway, but across the United States, in Switzerland, Australia, New Zealand, and Hong Kong.
The taping of their two shows in 1962 and 1967 also revealed history about concerns of filming live theatre, how performers should be remunerated for broadcasts, and the role of theatre on television.
Information about the filming of At the Drop of Another Hat was relatively easy to find. The show had been filmed at the Ed Sullivan Theater in New York and was released on VHS. The footage is currently available on YouTube, under the erroneous title "The Only Flanders & Swann Video."
Watching the video, it struck me that Flanders sometimes seemed to be in a bad mood, and some of the audience members even appeared to be bored. I later learned that the studio taping took over 7 hours. Flanders and Swann were reportedly frustrated by the stops and starts to adjust lighting and angles, and the audience were likely exhausted.
I kept finding mention of At the Drop of a Hat being filmed, but couldn't find information on where or when. This lead me to one of my all time favorite pastimes, delving into the archives at the Billy Rose Theatre Division at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.
The archive holds literally hundreds of boxes containing the papers of Alexander H. Cohen, the groundbreaking American producer who bought Flanders and Swann to Broadway. Due to space and COVID restrictions, and limited time to spend at the library, I was only able to access exactly 6 boxes per appointment, and I had to choose from the hundreds of boxes which 6 boxes might hold the answers to my questions.
I hit the jackpot in a folder labelled "Alexander H Cohen Papers, Billy Rose Theatre Collection, Theatre - At the Drop of a Hat Correspondence 1957." Letters exchanged between Cohen, Michael Flanders, and Flanders and Swann's agents at MCA, detailed that At the Drop of a Hat had been filmed with an invited audience at the BBC's Studio 4 in London. It was filmed as part of the Festival of the Performing Arts, a short-lived cultural television program sponsored by the New Jersey Standard Oil Company.
The program was only supposed to be aired in the US, but the BBC immediately wanted to air it in the UK. The letters detail Flanders and Swann's concerns over a UK release, which included worries about the impact on future ticket sales, and also proper renumeration for such a broadcast. British Equity had just emerged from a 7 month strike against ITV over payments based on potential audience size, and Flanders and Swann wanted to ensure they were properly compensated.
Although it has not been released since airing on either British or American television, truncated video footage of At the Drop of a Hat may still exist, as Donald Swann discusses watching it, with some trepidation, many years later in his autobiography.
I'm so glad that my research led me to the work of Flanders and Swann. While some of their comedy is a little dated, much of the music and witty songs are as delightful and fun as when they were first performed over seventy years ago.
You can learn more about At the Drop of a Hat and At the Drop of Another Hat in the database!
Pre-pandemic the rules for streaming local school or community musical productions were very clear: no filming allowed! Although it was sometimes possible for these groups to buy additional licenses to film the show for archival purposes or purchase a license to sell show DVDs to friends and family at cost.
The pandemic saw a seismic shift in permissions for streaming. It took much negotiating with playwrights, composers, and music publishing houses, but it is now easier than ever for schools and amateur theatre groups to stream their productions so that non-local relatives, friends, people restricted by geography, physical ability, or global pandemics, can tune into their productions.
Due to the complex negotiations required for streaming, it’s not surprising that licensing companies themselves are behind new specialized platforms for streaming theatre. After purchasing a license for a show, schools and community groups can use platforms such ShowTix4U and ShowShare to stream their productions. One fee takes care of royalties and streaming rights, and the ticket sales or donations are all through the one platform. The platforms also provide tech and streaming support, resulting in higher quality streams than using Zoom, YouTube, or Facebook Live.
The first platform to go live was ShowTix4U, which launched in mid-June 2020. A partnership between musical licensing company Music Theatre International (MTI), streaming platform Digital Theatre, and tech experts Broadway Media, ShowTix4U provides a platform for both ticket sales and streams. Tickets can be sold to both in-person and streamed events, and shows can be streamed live or on demand. Another benefit of using the platform, is that licensing fees and royalties for MTI shows are automatically part of the fee.
MTI titles are available with 4 different types of streaming rights: Live-Streaming (streamed in real-time), Scheduled Content (stream pre-recorded productions), Video on Demand (pre-recorded video or previous productions), or Remote Content (produced virtually). There are currently 97 titles available including Annie, Billy Elliot the Musical, Daddy Long Legs, Spring Awakening, Urinetown, and Working. There are also 35 Disney titles available, including Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, and The Descendants, and The Little Mermaid, and Newsies, with most only available using Scheduled Content Streaming. According to Playbill, the top three streamed MTI titles throughout the pandemic were Songs for a New World, Disney’s High School Musical, and Annie.
An initiative of Broadway on Demand, ShowShare launched in September 2020. Its current licensing partners include Broadway Licensing, Playscripts, Stage Rights, Concord Theatricals, and Youth Plays. Musicals with streaming rights include After Midnight, BRKLYN the Musical, Emma: A Pop Musical, and Polkadots. According to Broadway on Demand Vice President Tralen Doler, 1466 schools streamed their musical productions via ShowShare throughout the pandemic. The most produced musicals were Emma, Disenchanted, and You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.
A third platform is BookTix, which as its name suggests, started as a digital ticket booking platform. Founders Tim DiVito and Jason Goldstein increasingly saw a need to also provide streaming services, and expanded. As of May 2020, BookTix is partnered with Theatrical Rights Worldwide, whose entire catalog, including Monty Python’s Spamalot, Bright Star, The Prom, and The Color Purple, includes free streaming rights. According Director of Operations Cassie Balint, the most produced musical “by far” throughout the pandemic was The Addams Family. Other popular shows included You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, We Will Rock You, and Spamalot.
It will be great to see these streaming rights extended to professional productions, though this will need a significant shift from Equity and SAG/AFTRA, who have long battled over how to negotiate who gets paid what for live theatre broadcasts.
I have been sharing upcoming high school and community theatre streams in the weekly Filmed Live Musicals newsletter. Sign up to find out what’s streaming near you!
Despite the fact that we’ve been filming theatre since the invention of cameras, and that the first live theatre broadcasts took place in 1939, many still don’t know that filming stage shows and releasing them for public consumption is a thing. And when folks are aware of filmed live theatre, there are usually two reactions. Either they are either afraid of it because they think it will cannibalize ticket sales, or they dismiss it entirely as “not theatre”.
To the first point, as I’ve written previously, there is little evidence to suggest that filmed live theatre cannibalizes ticket sales — mainly because most captures are released in the final days of a show’s run, or after it has closed. For musicals that were released during a run, such as Legally Blonde, Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables, or Daddy Long Legs, ticket sales stayed stable, or were boosted, by the filmed live release.
Despite research that shows that audiences find watching theatre on screen a viable alternative, I don’t entirely disagree with the folks who ascertain filmed live theatre is not theatre. It falls somewhere in between the live theatre experience and a movie.
Terms that were used a lot pre-pandemic included filmed live theatre, live cinema, transmission, HD transmission, cine-cast, pro-shot, and live capture.
Some recent big Broadway name examples, Hamilton, Come From Away, and Diana (it’s fun to note that both Diana and Come From Away are directed by Christopher Ashley, who also directed Memphis, which was filmed live on Broadway with an audience in 2011) show that there is no consensus on what to call filmed live theatre. The filmed live version of Hamilton is billed on Disney Plus as “the Original Broadway Production,” and is referred to in press as the filmed version, filmed presentation, filmed performance, filmed version, Hamilton movie, recorded performance, live capture or live-capture, and streaming version. When tweeting the announcement of the filmed live release of Hamilton, the musical’s composer Lin-Manuel Miranda called it “Our Hamilton film”, and used the hashtag, #Hamilfilm.
In August 2020, Diana the Musical, a new Broadway musical which was still in previews at the time of the shutdown, revealed that the show would be filmed live without an audience and released on Netflix. Press around the announcement described it as a taping, filmed version, specially filmed version, recorded without an audience, and recording.
It was announced in February that Come From Away, the Broadway musical that tells the real-life story of the Canadian town of Gander which hosted 7000 stranded passengers after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, will be filmed in May. A variety of terms were used to describe the soon-to-be-released product: filmed live or live filming, filmed live version, live stage recording, filmed stage production, pro-shot, capture, and live taping. To add to the confusion, one reporter stated that it was unclear if this filmed live version would be different from the film adaptation that had been previously announced.
When we delve deeper into the filmed live theatre world, there are differences that are important to define so audiences and industry folks alike know what they’re dealing with. Some productions are filmed and broadcast live, such as most content from Live from Lincoln Center, BroadwayHD captures of She Loves Me and Daddy Long Legs, or the National Theatre’s Follies. These productions are often made available after the live broadcast, and billed as “live”. Other productions are filmed live with an audience, and edited with close-ups and on-stage angles that are filmed separately from the actual performance, such as Love Never Dies, Newsies, and Hamilton. Then there is another category of shows that are filmed to look like their stage show versions, but are filmed without an audience, such as the National Theatre’s 1998 production of Oklahoma! or the 1999 made-for-VHS Cats.
While the pandemic has resulted in a slew of filmed live musicals being made available online, often live recordings made for archival purposes, it has also opened up new categories, and ways of filming that are not always made clear to audiences what they’re watching. There’s filmed live in a theatre without an audience present, such as Fiver, Sorcerer’s Apprentice, or The Last Five Years all filmed at Southwark Playhouse, filmed live remotely on Zoom such as Curveball Creative’s Who’s Your Baghdaddy, or filmed separately and edited together like Irish Rep’s clever Meet Me In St Louis. Finally, there’s a new self-titled theatre/film hybrid of stage shows filmed in theatres and presented as films, such as Curve Theatre’s Sunset Boulevard.
So what should we call filmed live theatre? It’s one of my favorite questions to ask guests on the Filmed Live Musicals podcast. Take a listen to Episode 15 The Grinning Man with composers Marc Teitler and Tim Philips, to find out what I think is one of the best answers so far!
Coming up in 2021, you may see a few less blog posts from me as I attempt to catch-up on the back log of musicals in the database. When I wrote my thesis on filmed live musicals back in 2012, I had a list of about 80 musicals. By the end of 2020, that list has exploded to over 350 musicals, only 185 of which are currently in searchable database! And that doesn’t even include musicals filmed without an audience or “zoomsicals” (musicals performed over zoom). That’s a lot of musicals to write up!
I want to continue spotlighting musicals by a diverse range of artists from around the world, especially musicals by women and people of color, and musicals in languages other than English.
The Filmed Live Musicals Podcast will continue to feature artists, creators, and industry specialists who make filmed live musical theatre.
I will continue to update the Filmed Live Musicals calendar, If you want to make sure you don't miss when musicals are screening, make sure to sign up for the weekly newsletter!
I’m hoping that as the vaccine is rolled out, I can return to focusing on stage musicals that have been filmed live with an audience present!
Filmed Live Musicals is very much a labor of love. Thank you to my wonderful patrons for helping to offset the financial cost of running the site. No matter what level you pledge at, every patron receives early access to content and the podcast.
And to everyone who has signed up for the weekly newsletter, downloaded the podcast, and shared a love of filmed live musical theatre with me, thank you!
IIIIIII’ll drink to that!
Thank you to patrons Rachel Esteban, Mercedes Esteban-Lyons, Al Monaco, David Negrin, Jesse Rabinowitz & Brenda Goodman, David & Katherine Rabinowitz, and Bec Twist, for financially supporting Filmed Live Musicals.
In this week's episode of the podcast, I chat with Kelly Kessler, Associate Professor of Cinema and Media Studies at DePaul University, about her new book Broadway in the Box: Television's Lasting Love Affair with the Musical.
We talk about Kelly's research, why television networks produce live musicals, the role of adverts, the first musicals on television, the first Broadway musical to air live on television (and who got to watch it), and why we should put musicals on television!
Broadway in the Box: Television's Lasting Love Affair with the Musical is available at all major bookstores and on Amazon (as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases from this link).
About This Week's Guest
Kelly Kessler is an Associate Professor of Cinema and Media Studies at DePaul University. Her work draws on three main areas: the American musical, the intersection of genre and gender, and the mainstreaming of lesbianism in American television and film. Her scholarship can be found in works such as Studies in Musical Theatre, The Journal of E-Media Studies, The Journal of Popular Music Studies, Television and New Media, Movies, Moves, and Music: The Sonic World of the Dance Film, Televising Queer Women: A Reader, and The New Queer Aesthetic on Television: Essays on Recent Programming. Kessler has published two books, including Destabilizing the Hollywood Musical: Music, Masculinity and Mayhem and Broadway in the Box: Television's Lasting Love Affair with the Musical.